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Retirement “Do” Vindicates the Blog

October 3rd, 2009 · 20 Comments

Friday night I attended a retirement party for Eric Cable, a BCTV/Global cameraman for an amazing 38 years: and I came away from it full of memories and feeling totally vindicated for the way I … and many, many other serious retired journalists …  have lamented the passing of local news’ Golden Era.

I was absolutely floored by the number of former co-workers who, in the course of our schmoozing and personal updates, also  thanked me and praised me for “keeping it real” here on these pages; telling it like it is today in the news business; and not the way management and the p.r. promoters pretend it to be.

My blogging on the media has once more been vindicated. 🙂

There was one dissenter … a management type (surprise!) who refused to shake my hand and called me “Judas” … I suspect for being so publicly critical since my retirement of how I feel news has changed, and not for the better.   Funny thing, though, my blog has no advertising, no revenues … just lays out the truth from my perpective. And really, if you think of it, the real “Judas” would be someone who advances and embraces the new lower standards,  in return for silver … lots of it.

But thankfully, as Cable’s night showed me, there are still many real journalists and camera operators and editors … very skilled people,  with mortgages to pay and families to raise ,who still work in the industry … but remain true to their craft and are honest enough to acknowledge the reality of what now surrounds them, and hope for better days down the line.

Even the guest of honour, in his own remarks, remembered the great days of the PAST (what does that tell you?)  and how stories used to be told with cameramen who were right in there, consistently pushing the story themselves to a higher level and even calling out, demanding answers to tough questions.

Now, in case you’re wondering, this was not a company party: I no longer get invited to those. LOL!

Global feted Cable’s 38-years of service with a morning cake and coffee celebration in the company cafeteria. They used to mark long-time retirements with evening beer and food bashes in a private function room at a pub near the station.  But times are indeed tough at Global!  Hope Tony won’t feel slighted if they just do a cake and coffee celebration for him.  😉

The party I was invited to was put on by Cable’s former co-workers and friends … and it was great to be together again with so many who were part of BCTV’s ground-breaking days, when cameras told the story, and editors cut first to pictures, with reporters writing to the edited version.

And there happily were even some relative newcomers who also know and understand the potential of storytelling, good writing,  the value of pictures and the real difference between breaking hard news and just pushing puffery.   

Real reporters (old and new)  and news junkies remember the days when BCTV reporters broke stories almost daily; when hard questions were the norm and not the exception; when investigative features regularly gripped the attention of viewers;  and when politicians dreaded to see reporters approaching, not just greet them with smiles.

Times have changed … and I don’t believe for the better.

But it was good to see so many paying tribute to what local news used to be … and hopefully one day will be again. 

And acknowledging the worst thing we can all possibly do is just remain silent and let the corporate bean counters keep watering down the soup in the belief no one will notice, say anything or care.

Harv Oberfeld

Tags: Media · Private Notes

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DMJ // Oct 3, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    You are no Judas, rather you are a newsman and will continue to be a newsman until………….

    As i stated before, the media seems to be merely readers of news releases and spin doctor’s memos. No checking of facts, no independent verification that what has been given as a news release is in fact news or propaganda.

    The powers that be are afraid of the bloggists, but more and more real news and interpretation of the news is on the blogs and not in the mainstream media.

    The ‘Fourth Estate’ must be protected.

    (Response: But let’s not worry about the one negatvie guy: the good news was that so many still care, like what I’m doing, and encouraged me to stay the course. h.o.)

  • 2 Lynn // Oct 3, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Harv,
    What a great night for you! I know we all thank you a lot (hope it doesn’t go to your head) for taking the time to expose all that is or isn’t going on, but there is no better medicine than the compliment coming from one’s peers. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if all you and your former workmates started up your own news web site?
    How unprofessional of that “Dufuss” not to shake your hand and to call you a Judas? How old is he 12? Did he throw a fit too?
    An individual that is incapable of looking past his own opinion and extend a healthy respect to someone who has one. How does he treat his own staff?
    I am pleased you had a ball celebrating your friend’s send off.

    (Response: Actually, when we were co-workers …he was great to me. We worked together very well. The people I generally respect, though, are not the sellouts, who hold theinoses and take the money and run, but those who love journalism and quality reporting so much they ENCOURAGE me to fight for improvements and speak up ,where they cannot. h.o.)

  • 3 genuine // Oct 3, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    To fight improvements and speak up,where they cannot,well that’s saying a lot,are we living in a democracy where freedom of speech is allowed or living in a state of fear where speaking the truth,or your mind will bring reprisals either monetary or physical harm ,is that not blackmail,or dare I say,FASCISM!!!!!!

  • 4 Nancy // Oct 4, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Thank God for your blog, Harvey. I love the reference to “soup” – brings to mind the old folktale”Stone Soup” – how true!

  • 5 Norman Farrell // Oct 4, 2009 at 5:05 am

    In the seventies, I often spent a few weekend hours in the office of the film lab where Eric and other cameramen took their news films for developing. If a big story was breaking, the news guys moved quickly but, sometimes, a dull morning was a dull morning. In those days before cell phones, Eric was fun to have hanging around, waiting for an assignment, even if he was suffering a near death experience from bad ice the night before.

    To BCTV. the job of covering news on Saturday and Sunday was almost as important as on weekdays. The modern style is recycle the same stories from one newscast to another with almost no timely, original material prepared on weekends. If the quality of BCTV News ranked a 10 in the heyday, GlobalTV news today ranks about a 2. That will decline even further as the real news operators retire.

    I recall that Eric Cable Sr., was a pioneer of television news in Vancouver so Junior was well bred for his career. I haven’t seen him in many years but I imagine he remains exactly the same affable guy that I remember.

    I wish an investor would gather people from that old gang and install them as the news department for CHEK-TV. Cameron Bell, get your team together!

    (Response: Wow! Norman ..you DO remember the old days … from Kodak 7240 film and Aquacine to the days of Eric Sr,. to the the Golden Era of BCTV etc. But I’ve got to tell you … something I have heard is that they are now using a new rating system ..and last Tuesday . Global Newshour scored a NINE POINT ONE ..and their closest competition CTV .scored only POINT NINE. Not exactly the way to convince do more with less managers to invest more resources in quality…and that’s a reality that THINKING viewers and REAL NEWS JUNKIES now face. But we who care must never stop fighting for improvement and exposing the decline in quality, even if old comrades can’t take the heat. h.o.)

  • 6 Patrick Bell (Not the MLA) // Oct 4, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Good stuff Harv! You’re one of the best bloggers out there for sure……I may not comment all the time, but I’m always reading…:-)

    (Response: Always good to hear from readers, so I know they’re all out there. I think what we do here is important too… can you imagine if no one challenged the media and the politicians the way we do here. And I know they’re watching. And when they disagree with us … maybe can set them right! Or at least let them know how so many feel 🙂 h.o.

  • 7 Brian // Oct 4, 2009 at 5:10 am

    An interesting tale, harv. Maybe it is time for people like yourself and other retired news people to form a coalition and produce your own tv news/newspaper blog site. Show how news is supposed to be reported to the cookie cutter news of canwest/global and the other news conglomerates. You could then sell your production to tv/newspaper companies and truly be the 5th estate, (well, someone used the 4th estate, not sure which is correct) and save us all from politiicans who are only in it to line their own personal pockets.

    I know, Harv, you are enjoying your retirement, why the HE(double LL) would you want to do that! hah ha.

    (Response: Exactly! That could never be more fun than this! Seriously though, people often don’t realize the huge cost of equipment/resources etc to set up a news outlet. What bothers me is the existing outlets HAVE those resources but too often just use them to do more with less ..ie shovel up the easiest stuff they can. And I hate to tell you …in most markets, even the lower quality crud still draws huge ratings… because you don’t have to be a “10” … a “6” will do if your competition is just a “5” or less. h.o.)

  • 8 Crankypants // Oct 4, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Before I retired early this year, I depended on the local tv, radio and newspapers for information, and by the looks of things I was only getting sanitized and biased versions of many stories. It is only since I found myself with more time on my hands did I discover the blogosphere and it has been an eye-opener. The reason I mention this is that most people who are working full time and dealing with life’s other duties have limited time to search out information and depend on the MSM for their information. This puts a lot of power in the hands of the MSM, and by extension, if one can control the media then one can control the message.

    On Friday’s version of “Cutting Edge Of The Ledge”, one of the two usual guests took a shot at blogs basically stating that they were unreliable due to the anonimity of those of us putting forth our views. To be fair, some of what I have read got me looking for my tin foil hat, but in the main if a person uses common sense then one can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Harvey, it is great to hear that the people you encountered at this party still have some drive, but they seem to be quite similar to a MLA or MP getting elected for the first time and are ready to change the world. The boss sets them straight in short order, it’s my way or the highway.

    (Response: Great analogy ..re MLAs and MPs. It’s very true ..and those who speak out, complain and protest …soon become regarded as “the problem”. Thankfully, they are now unionized, so can’t just be fired for speaking out. And it good to see so many would love to do more in depth, investigative stuff that takes time, resources .. and appreciate my motives in pushing on their behalf. h.o.)

  • 9 A. G. Tsakumis // Oct 4, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I recently did an interview with John Daly, who I think is one of the finest reporters in the province, and the cameraman was Eric. Yes, indeed, same affable guy who’s been doing it forever.

    But Harv, the bigger problems here are that the media are moving away from paying capable people, and allow for too-young, inexperienced, ill-prepared children to “produce”, when all that’s required is to fill a binder full of script and dial in an agenda. It’s quite pathetic, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

    Why would Global want to go back to the heyday of BCTV? They have almost no competition, and CTV, wishes they were, have precisely the kind of lack of leadership in the backroom, that I was referring to earlier. Other than one producer that passed her best-before date long ago, they have a few terrific reporters, but with little support.

    Global could pretty much go to the top of the next show with a puppy-killer advocacy, and still beat the numbers of all the other three newscasts combined.

    Talent in the “new” media seems to stop at cleavage, veneers, hairspray and Pablum. Don’t rock the boat or we might actually uncover something.

    Global is the best because they stay away from this…but they could be much better, no question.

    (Response: Wow! Your analysis is100% right on! Interesting how it all shows through to so many perceptive viewers. BCTV had a homly group of reporters (like me and Daly etc) but all seasoned journalists … most with a long background in print/investigative research/story telling. There are still some good ones out there ..and not all over 50 yrs old! 🙂 But most of what you get are just inflated egos who want to be stars on t.v., without any historical or political educational background. But they like them because they work cheaper, can be intimidated into working without charging for all their hours, can be shouted at … and are easy on the eye for the bosses. And for the reasons you cite, the ratings remain high. The real disappointment for me is when oldtimers, who know what has been going on, have so sold out that they attack those who speak out and pressure for improvement, rather than praising and even thanking them. Fortunately, they are still many in the industry who do care, so that still gives me hope. h.o.)

  • 10 RS // Oct 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Props to H.O. He gets a 10/10 on my rating scale. Everyone should have “Keeping it Real…” bookmarked. My virtual copy of “Keeping it Real…” is thumbed through virtually every day ‘n’ dog- eared.

  • 11 seth // Oct 4, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Yeah Harvey why don’t you do a 5 minute “thats the way I see it thing” on the new TV station in Victoria.

    Even the CBC “journalists” are now so afraid of losing their jobs that they violate all journalistic ethics to enable Harpo’s gang of global warming deniers.

    http://www.themarknews.com/articles/516-fanning-the-flames

    (Response: No one has offered. Plus I’m retired (LOL!) and take off esp in the winter/spring for weeks at a time so thev regularity would not be there, which would hurt the effrot.) And I have my blog to get ideas out ..and here, get others involved in the discussion as well ..often teaching me things i did not know.. h.o.)

  • 12 A Dave // Oct 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Good old Eric… I’m sure it was a fun party! He coached me in soccer one year and was a tough son of a gun — I think he thought we were training for rugby…

  • 13 Henri Paul // Oct 5, 2009 at 1:57 am

    A. G. Tsakumis said // Oct 4, 2009 at 10:18 am
    Other than one producer that passed her best-before date long ago
    ———————————————
    Good line , but ouch that has to smart .
    No finer a compliment then be told, your over the hill.

  • 14 A. G. Tsakumis // Oct 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Henri:

    Mais oui! I can state this from personal experience since I used to work for her…but that’s as far as I’ll go, for now.

    And she’s not that old, actually, just about as useful (and open-minded) as two tits on a bull.

    MSM elites don;t like me because I call it the way it is. I’m never going to win any Mr. Handsome Awards and I don’t suffer fools–period. The complacent MSM in this town are more interested in doing ‘Entertainment Tonight’ spots and pretending they have an angle that will resonate.

    It used to be that the only godamned angle that matter was something called the truth.

    But, apparently, that doesn’t sell advertising.

    Bollocks! I have the most popular column in the city on Thursdays, (in 24 Hours…h.o.) and advertisers flock to get on the same page as my scribblings.

    You have to take a chance and build a following. People like the gal I referred to above, are interested in providing nothing more than what’s required to write two dozen paycheques bi-monthly.

    Imagine if they really cared about the public…..

  • 15 Cameron Bell // Oct 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Harvey
    Congratulations on your ongoing efforts – and particularly your effort to alert viewers to the weaknesses of what they are being served at supper time.
    Perhaps, though, there are additional questions to be asked. Here are some of mine:
    1. regardless of ratings, are present revenues sufficient to fund a restoration of journalistic muscle to Canada’s television and newspapers? (There seems to be a lot of house ads on all the outlets)
    2. how are young people getting jobs without an appreciation or a desire to provide relevant, interesting and compelling stories to the audience? (what schools enroll and graduate young people who can’t appreciate that the value of their career will turn on their skills as reporters?)
    3. In the current demand by networks for carriage fees from cable companies are there provisions that ensure the revenues will reach local news organizations? Will there be incentives to encourage network owners to foster real journalism?
    As I said, it is important and valuable for people to recognize the decline in quality that is clear in much of the media world. But I don’t think greed or conspiracies play quite as large a role as many seem to believe.
    The economic model that funded the ‘Golden age’ (damn, it was fun!) has changed. We’re in a transition and the future course is not yet clear.
    Personally, I’ve had a lot of time in recent years to reflect on the problem of ensuring that there is enough revenue reaching journalists to fund high quality efforts. I believe there are several steps that could easily be taken that would enable responsible corporations and/or networks to prosper through quality journalism. The changes would be no harder to embrace than the addition of television to the print world, the switch from film to video, access to microwaves and satellites and the other less conspicuous changes that our craft has watched, accepted and then worked with happily.
    If someone asks, I’ll let you know.
    all the best
    Cameron

    (Response: Great questions ..from the man who, along with Keith Bradbury, turned BCTV into the powerhouse it once way ..and who hired me away from The Vancouver Sun. Wish I had the answers .. except to say that be looking at what/who goes to air, I don’t think they care as much about such things anymore. h.o.)

  • 16 BC Mary // Nov 10, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Harvey:

    Among so many former colleagues at the Cable retirement party, did you get a sense of what they think of other bloggers (besides an appreciation for your blog, I mean)? I’d be interested to know their professional assessment of the work many of us put into blogging. Or are they all “Morley Saffers”?

    Also: after encountering a very informative little news service … TERRACE DAILY ONLINE …

    I thought it suggested a way of the future. I could imagine many small, independent news-blogs forming a network to provide a very lively daily look at provincial affairs, at very little cost.

    The surprise and delight of TERRACE DAILY ONLINE is (a) their fearless truth-telling, and (b) their publication of news which rarely shows up in Southern BC. For example, that god-awful keynote address Gordo made recently to the Independent Power Producers. Gordo explained his newest vision of letting these corporations cut up BC’s sacred forests into firewood and burning it, for the purpose of making electricity which he would then force BC Hydro to buy … and Gordo calls this “GREEN ENERGY”.

    TERRACE DAILY ONLINE had the news of Eurocan’s shutdown before anyone else; also the possibility of Kemano becoming only a power producer … and don’t you smell a big back-story there, Harv? where the Province of BC gave up lakes and rivers and forests to provide Alcan with the power to process aluminum? And now, Gordo waves his magic wand, and Rio Tinto Alcan can simply turn its back on the people of BC, and simply sell that electricity … shut down the smelter … and decimate the town of Kitimat primarily made up of Alcan workers. TERRACE DAILY ONLINE gladly shared those reports (with credit), and

    I was able to share some news which they hadn’t seen before, either. So a CITIZENS’ ONLINE NETWORK might have a very good effect on the province, I think.

    Would you consider writing a column on your views about this?

    (Response: No, we didn’t talk much about blogging … just about their take on mine and how the blogosphere is growiing. Did much more reminisicing about work and the current financial crisis facing Global. As for writing a column elsewhere… I’m flattered … bit I am retired, right! Can hardly keep up with writing for my own blog and handling responses. But again, I’m flattered. 🙂 h.o.

  • 17 Doug // Nov 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Harvey:

    I am new to your site but I did hear you on talk1410 occasionally. I have long said that the media (both TV and print) are no more than propaganda arms of the ruling elite. I stopped watching TV news a long time ago. I only occasionally pick up a newspaper. With the demise of talk1410, I wonder who will hold the government’s feet to the fire.

    We no longer have a free press but a managed press. We no longer have free speech but a managed speech. I fear for this country.

  • 18 BC Mary // Nov 16, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Here’s an odd media story. Comments from Harvey (or others) would be welcome.

    I was contacted a few weeks ago with a request to do a feature story for a special print edition of VANCOUVER OBSERVER. The topic: the trial of Basi, Virk, Basi.

    Being perfectly willing to work on a no-fee basis to tell the BC Rail story, I replied, asking about the deadline (fairly short), the word-length, and some idea of how much of this big story they wanted.

    The editor replied that they planned to do a 1-page spread using photos of all the players. The page would be tabloid size.

    Well, I realized that they had chosen an impossible task, so excused myself … leaving an offer to proof or help.

    In due course, I received a first draft which I read, and offered some comment. I was thanked, and then … nothing.

    Vancouver Observer has been published. No story appears about Basi, Virk, or BC Rail. No clue about it coming later. Nothing.

    But the most puzzling thing is that I can’t get a response from them. I mean, THEY contacted ME … and there’s a form to fill out on their VANCOUVER OBSERVER web-site for people wishing to contact them. I’ve tried 3 … maybe 4 times … not a glimmer.

    Since Vancouver Observer is a production of the U.B.C. School of Journalism … does this sound right to you?

    Something in me, says that UBC should NOT be giving up on the BC Rail story.

    (Response: Whether in newspapers I worked for or at BCTV, there were always stories that were left on the editing room floor, for various reasons: they just didn’t fit with the overall flavour the section they would have been published; something more interesting came along; too many articles/stories for too little space; legal concerns; poor writing etc. Magazines/journals have even greater problems than newspapers when it comes to space/focus. The bototm, line..when something is not used, it leaves room for all kinds of speculation: the fact they didn’t reply can fuel that, but all it really proves, if they did receive your inquiries, is that they are rude. h.o)

  • 19 BC Mary // Nov 17, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Thanks for responding, Harvey, but the fact is: Vancouver Observer contacted me … I was standing by to assist (for free) … and they went quiet.

    They wouldn’t have proposed the idea, if it had been inappropriate for their needs. That’s what I couldn’t understand (and am not a novice).

    However … today, Vancouver Observer responded. Guess what? There was a glitch in their new computer software … and all incoming e.mails had been sent to the Junk box.

    I’m still shaking my head.

  • 20 Myrna // Nov 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Just discovered your blog after hearing you on an Alberta talk radio show. I love it! We stopped watching the evening news about 2 years ago, but do watch CHEK tv – it is real, much like your blog.
    I have a small magazine I publishe here in rural B.C. and REALLY connect with the comments about real news and covering it in a real way.It is much appreciated by readers and criticized widely by the local ‘establishment,’ who no longer even support me with advertisements once they realized we would not be ‘managed.’ Thanks for what you are doing – I also heartily agree with your comments on NW. I Only listen to Christy Clark now, love her, wonder how long she’ll last?

    (Response: Welcome. It’s only a hobby … no ads or sponsors ..just me telling it as I see it …trying to get good discussions of real issues going ..and it’s all spread by word of mouth or mentions by people who want to publicize it. (For obvious reasons, many mainstream media, don’t do that! 🙂 h.o.